Yesterday people across the country celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. There were many remembrances of his work for nonviolent activism and civil rights. Here at Oberlin College, we looked back to the words and meaning of his 1965 commencement address.
Drawing on the story of Rip Van Winkle, the man who slept for 20 years, King's message was simple: "There is nothing more tragic than to sleep through a revolution." Rip Van Winkle went to sleep under an inn bearing the image of King George III and awoke to see George Washington's face on that same sign: he not only slept for 20 years, he slept through a revolution that changed the course of history.
The closing words of King's address are as relevant today as they were nearly fifty years ago: "Let us stand up. Let us be a concerned generation. Let us remain awake through a great revolution. And we will speed up that great day when the American Dream will be a reality."